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I-77 battle focuses on Charlotte City Council; intense lobbying under way; Widen I-77 will announce ‘stay’ at 2 pm

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Jan. 6. By Dave Yochum. The Widen I-77 anti-toll group will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. at Cornelius Town Hall to announce that it has filed a motion in court to stay the lawsuit against the NCDOT/Cintra toll project.

The stay, if granted, would put a temporary pause on the legal proceedings, including the hearing scheduled for Friday. The group, according to Widen I-77 founder Kurt Naas, remains confident in the legal aspects of their case.

Bill Russell, CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is actively working the political side of a complex equation that includes local and state government as well as the Charlotte City Council.

The Charlotte City Council will “direct” Councilwoman Vi Liles’ vote on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, which, at this point, holds all the cards around the fate of the toll plan.

CRTPO is scheduled to vote Jan. 20. Oddly enough, Charlotte, through Vi Liles, has 46 percent of the vote on a regional organization. Gov. Pat McCrory has written the CRTPO, telling the regional transportation group that they must vote up or down on the toll plan.

Woody Washam, the top vote-getter on the Cornelius Town Board, is also a member of the CRTPO.

“The lobbying effort to convince Charlotte City Council to vote no against tolls is in extreme high gear.  The City Council’s vote to direct Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles vote at CRTPO is crucial and will likely dictate the outcome of that vote on Jan. 20th.  The vote will be close and time is of essence,” Washam said.

Meanwhile, Michelle Ferlauto, an anti-toll activist, has quickly raised more than $6,600 to fund print ads in the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte Post, an African-America newspaper. The effort is to sway members of the Charlotte City Council.

The anti-toll forces say they have five out of 11 votes lined up.

“The governor’s recent letter has created an entirely new layer of confusion and political debate on the issue,” Naas said. “In light of the governor’s letter and two upcoming votes resulting from that letter, we felt it appropriate for the political debate to run its course before resorting to litigation.”

In his letter to the Charlotte Regional Transportation Organization, McCrory asked members to re-affirm the “regional strategy for managed lanes.”

With Charlotte’s 46 percent weighted vote, it determines the outcome. The Charlotte City Council in its entirety will take up the matter Jan. 11.

Since the group filed suit last January against the NCDOT, Cintra and the State of North Carolina, it has consistently maintained it pursued litigation as a last resort.

The political landscape has changed considerably in the past year. Virtually every Lake Norman town as well as Mecklenburg and Iredell counties have passed resolutions opposing the project.

Despite all that, the NCDOT has forged ahead with the 50-year, $650 million deal with Cintra, a company whose roots are in Spain.

Elected officials at the state level, including local legislators John Bradford and Jeff Tarte, have come out in opposition. The I-77 toll controversy led to a major shakeup of the Huntersville town board in last November’s elections.

“We are looking to our elected representatives to carry this fight for us,” added Naas. “If CRTPO instead re-affirms the most reviled transportation project in state history, we will immediately move to lift the stay.”

 

Discussion

6 Responses to “I-77 battle focuses on Charlotte City Council; intense lobbying under way; Widen I-77 will announce ‘stay’ at 2 pm”

  1. Personally, I am not in favor of toll roads, BUT, if the project is stopped there will be HUGE consequences – – immense fines plus the discontinuation of work on other construction projects. The ultimate price we will pay to stop this project may be worse than the toll lanes themselves. I think it only fair to make our citizens aware of ALL the penalties that will be incurred as a result of cancelling the toll lane project.

    Posted by Alyson Dunlap | January 6, 2016, 6:46 pm
  2. Ms. Dunlap – Your reaction is exactly what the NC DOT has been using against us for several years. “If you don’t take what we are offering, we will give you nothing or something worse.” Our local elected leaders bought into that argument and acquiesced to the NC DOT’s argument. Some even benefited from special interests via campaign donations from those who profit from such schemes. I have been working on this issue for over three years and have concluded it is absolutely the worst thing we can do for Lake Norman and Charlotte. If the contract is canceled and we are put back into the STI formula (and the arbitrary $200 million corridor cap is removed), that the 8-9 mile stretch of I-77 that needs widening will rank very high in an objective evaluation. If our elected leaders and the NC DOT are really smart, they will negotiate a settlement that keeps the construction going and finish this project within three years. They won’t even entertain that possibility until the decision is made by them or for them to cancel the contract. Don’t be afraid Ms. Dunlap – be mad and tell these bureaucrats and politicians to fix this now!

    Posted by Vince Winegardner | January 6, 2016, 7:39 pm
  3. Ms. Dunlap,
    None of that is true about if we don’t have the MANAGED LANES , it will put other road projects in jeopardy, this isn’t the case at all. Please take the time and research the VAST amount of information the Widen I-77. Org has on their website, and the exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page, once you gain access. Also, the fines are a ” magical number ” as nobody from the State has provided the formula or contract details SHOWING AND FULLY GIVING TRANSPARENT INSIGHT TO THE SO CALLED FINES! It has been said that the fines could be $100 million then they said 300 million, then its maybe $15- 300 million!!!!! They don’t have a clue. Also, it’s better to fix a major 50 year traffic road project that they even admit WON’T EASE congestion and pay fines than be locked in those 50 years to a corrupt company, and not be allowed to add lanes without PAYING PENALTIES TO CINTRA!!! Ironic, Huh!!?. Well, I hope that you take the time to really read what is out here.

    Posted by Steve Guissari | January 6, 2016, 10:32 pm
  4. Right on… and let’s not forget the idiocy of making the toll lanes substandard so that they may not be used by large trucks… right here in the heart and crossroads of the trucking industry for the southeast. Think the trucks will ignore the signs that they are not welcome in the toll lanes? oh, yeah… we just put an intermodal station at the 6th/8th busiest airport in the USA…

    Posted by Jack Wilson | January 6, 2016, 11:04 pm
  5. Alyson, to be fair, you must look at the benefits as well as the costs. The tolls stand to extract billions of dollars from the local economy. Even if 300M, that is a small price to pay to fix the problem. The financial burden, as well as the loss of quality of life and economic impact from businesses leaving the area could have a 30 Billion dollar price tag. Damage from poor infrastructure with no hope for future relief is already taking its toll. We must be smarter and look beyond the instant gratification of this P3, do what is right for the state and cancel the contract.

    Posted by Mac McAlpine | January 7, 2016, 12:04 am
  6. Like it or not……..this is wrong….The public has spoken…….and it has definitely voided all support for ouGovernor for a re-election…….he has done this so replace him…He is solely been responsible……Thanks for your service;

    Posted by Charles | January 18, 2016, 4:37 am

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